#MeToo: The Movement

Dhristi Raval ‘20

A national survey conducted in 2017 by Fortune found that 54% of American women have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances” at some point in their lives. Since October 2017, the #MeToo campaign has gained traction very quickly in the past few weeks. For a long time, most women defined their own sexual harassment and assault as a private matter unworthy of acknowledgment. On October 15th, actress Alyssa Milano used her Twitter account to encourage sexually harassed women to tweet the hashtag #MeToo. Despite Milano’s experience with sexual harassment, she keeps her circumstances private. She also does not pressure any other women to do so, as she believes they should only share their personal stories if they choose to. Since then, the hashtag has gained more than half a million retweets. Along with it, many others described their personal experiences of harassment or assault. In addition to women, many men also came forward about their experiences. Milano has reignited a movement that denounces sexual assault and harassment, and millions of people are standing with her, including stars Uma Thurman, Björk, Sheryl Crow, Lady Gaga, Molly Ringwald and Ilana Glazer.

Milano explained that “the goal of #MeToo was simply to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” The power in this hashtag is that it takes something that men and women had long kept quiet about and transforms it into a movement. It empowers people to stay valiant and speak out against harassment they have faced in their lifetime. For instance, the author and poet Najwa Zebian wrote: “I was blamed for it. I was told not to talk about it. I was told that it wasn’t that bad. I was told to get over it.” According to the National Statistics of Sexual Violence, one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. However, studies predict that police receive reports of less than one percent of sexual violence cases that actually transpire. Society has a tendency to blame the victim, whether it was for the way they dressed or the manner in which they acted. Sreekar Madabushi ‘20 expresses that “this ideology prevents many women from reporting abusers and standing for their rights.” If women are constantly shamed rather than supported after they are harassed, victims are less likely to speak out and report abusers.  

Many of these accusations, from recollections of lewd remarks to sexual assaults, have the ring of familiarity to many people. It is prevalent in our society that the more powerful and influential a man is, the more his misdeeds are covered up, the more they are normalized, the more it is simply “boys being boys.” Thus, there are plenty of reasons victims fear speaking out, because they are often disbelieved, personally scrutinized, shamed, or ridiculed. They would be forced to repeat their experiences and explain what happened over and over again, which can be very difficult considering the anguish they have had to endure.

Fortunately, many people are just finding their public voices. Because of this hashtag, people are educating themselves on the terrible assaults and comments others have had to endure. This hashtag will have a positive impact on modern day society because it allows people to voice their stories and express themselves through a social media platform. Laasya Gaddipati ‘21 explains that through this hashtag, “women can receive the support from thousands of other people who have had similar experiences.” Often, victims feel alienated and misunderstood because of society. Although, this hashtag illuminates the vast number of people who have suffered. Additionally, this public vocalization of their traumatic experiences reinforces that these experiences are nothing to be ashamed of. Rather than feeling guilty and blaming themselves for these incidents, this hashtag allows them the opportunity to speak up against sexual assault. It is the beginnings of a social revolution to see courageous men and women stand up for their rights while voicing the scars and emotional trauma that society has inflicted upon them.